Review: A unique production of Macbeth now plays at Shakespeare & Company

Angelica Potter

  • Boston Theatre Critic

Written by William Shakespeare, Macbeth, or as most theatre folks refer to it, The Scottish Play, is a psychological and tragic tale of blind ambition and destructive, consuming power. It is a play full of malicious intentions and gruesome murders. Fantastically directed by the Obie Award-winning Melia Bensussen, who was inspired by the ghost stories of Edgar Allen Poe, this production with its intriguing artistic choices made it unique, unlike many of the others I have seen. In this rendition, Macbeth’s ambition and belief in his imagination lead to his destruction more-so than the witches and supernatural forces who, in other productions, are so often blamed. He mercilessly pursues his dreams and desires.

Rather than allowing fate or anyone else to decide his future, he makes the future that he desires a reality. Blinded by his ambition and obsessed with gaining power over others, he gives in to the darkness within him to bring his future to fruition. It's not long before he thinks himself to be untouchable and undefeatable. Little does he know his time at the top will be short-lived.

The notorious Macbeth was portrayed by Jonathan Croy. He had a calmness about him that eerily intensified his evil deeds. His descent into madness was often quiet and more psychological than outwardly physical. His wife, Lady Macbeth, was portrayed by Tod Randolph who brought an interesting lightness and humor to the role; most notably in her relationship with Macbeth. It was clear that she was the mistress of the house and, more often than not, was in charge of not only the house and staff but of her husband. Her influence over him was apparent from their first scene together. The pair was captivating to watch.  

 Photo Credit: (From Left to Right) Mark Zeisler, Gregory Boover Jonathan Cory and Tod Randolph. Photo by Daniel Rader.

Photo Credit: (From Left to Right) Mark Zeisler, Gregory Boover Jonathan Cory and Tod Randolph. Photo by Daniel Rader.

Macduff, fellow nobleman and leader of an army rising against Macbeth after he becomes king, was terrifically portrayed by Thomas Brazzle. He played Macduff as a strong defender of what is right. Macduff is devastated when all he loves is taken from him igniting his rebellion against Macbeth. Their final vicious encounter was intensely crafted by violence designer Ted Hewlett. While both actors did a great job during this scene, it seemed like they were holding back. Granted, being fully comfortable with a lengthy violent action sequence takes time. That being said, the audience was riveted to the action being performed in front of them.

One of the best casting choices in this production is Ella Loudon as Banquo, Macbeth’s friend and fellow soldier. She was outstanding. Her low voice and commanding presence was well matched to the self-important stature of Croy’s Macbeth. Her portrayal of Banquo is one of the best I have seen. As Hecate, Zoё Laiz was mysterious and mystical, floating in and out of scenes. She was the perfect mix of supernatural darkness and devious playfulness. Nigel Gore gave a humorous performance of the Porter while also portraying the regal King Duncan. The cast was rounded out by Gregory Boover, Deaon Griffin-Pressley, and Mark Zeisler.

The at-first-glance simple, yet increasing intricate and detailed scenic design by Cristina Todesco featured a long, raked, black runway or platform that also served as a table. It sliced through the playing space diagonally from an up stage corner and ended just shy of the audience. A rectangle Plexiglas wall stretched almost entirely from the stage floor to the ceiling. The wall's purpose would not be revealed until mid-way through the first half of the production and though I don’t want to give away too many of the technical elements of this show, I will say, when it was used it amplified the scene taking place unlike any other production element in recent memory. The scenic design, blending with the impeccably well placed lighting by designer Dan Kotlowitz as well as the sound design by Brendan F. Doyle became almost like another character within the play. Combined, they elevated the entire production value. While the actors' performances were terrific, without these exceptionally well designed technical elements, this could have ended up just another one of many Shakespearian productions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this creative work and as I observed the audience around me, many sat on the edge of their seats and were completely enthralled by the performance taking place. Therefore, it's no surprise the audience didn’t take long to rise to their feet giving this company a rousing standing ovation. ©

This production runs 2 hours plus an intermission. Macbeth plays through August 5th in the Tina Packer Playhouse on the Shakespeare & Company campus located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information about this play as well as Shakespeare & Company’s full season can be found at www.shakespeare.org or by calling the box office at 413-637-3353.

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Title Photo Credit: Nigel Gore, Gregory Boover and Tod Randolph. Photo by Daniel Rader.